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As a Media Hub:
When you’re not using the PS3 as a Blu-ray machine or as a gaming console, it also works as a pretty capable media hub hooked up to your television. Accessing files can occur in a few fashions, the most popular being access via thumb drive. Grabbing files from portable USB storage is simple, as is importing photographs – the option for USB storage pops up when an applicable device is plugged in. Simply select it, click on the triangle (or green button) , and copy the file(s) onto the hard drive for easy use.
It’s in the synchronization between devices that the PS3 can really work some magic. It’s fully capable of accessing Media Servers via its wireless signal, as long as an applicable one is within range. To do this, you’ve got to switch the function for “media sharing” on in Windows Media Playe. The PS3 will access mp3s, images, and videos available on the server, but with a few negatives. When it accesses mp3 files, it takes roughly 5-10 seconds to boot up each file. Now, when it comes to Blu-ray playback, that’s acceptable; however, waiting that span of time for a media file to be accessed can be a little bothersome. Still, being able to stream media from one hard drive to a receiver-friendly, screen-friendly HDMI wireless device is very handy. From there, the XMB can organize playlists for easy access, both for photographs and for mp3 files.
When tested with 2L Nordic’s Blu-ray audio sampler, the quality was very pleasing. Crux Fidelis’ Gregorian chant and North Country II tested the system’s capacity to handle delicate aural elements in DTS HD Master Audio and PCM 5.1. The leap in quality between the two was fairly perceptible, rendering a slightly less processed quality that showcases the system’s leaner capacities. It’s also able to handle SACD discs as well. CD playback sounds decent enough, though a bit on the weaker side in comparison, while importing tracks from the disc onto the PS3’s hard drive as mp3 files works flawlessly – though awfully slow song to song. When files are imported on the hard drive, load time is next-to-nothing.
Online Performance and Playstation Store:
Once you’ve connected to the internet, several options become available. For one, you’ve got access to the Playstation Network (PSN) for purchases, as well as online gaming functions. At the store, the bounds are limited really on by the amount of cash you’re willing to spend on digital media. Digital downloads of new release DVDs / Blu-rays are available, as well as catalogue releases, in both high-definition and standard-definition. Trailers for current films can also be downloaded straight to the hard drive, accessed through the Video option in the XMB, and played through a receiver if desired.
Quality for these can vary, but they’re largely very good. Along with movies, you can also purchase games, download free updates, and snag mp3 files from some of your favorite games. Download times really don’t differ between the old and new Playstation 3 systems. The functionality largely gauges based on the level of internet service, and doesn’t seem to be a factor in this new unit. Connections seem to stay locked in rather well, only sporting a drop at one time to the media server. It’s free to browse and download trailers, a few themes, and some other gaming extras, but most of the content costs a bit extra. As always, the PSN is free for gaming online. A web browser is available for simple cruising on the internet, but the load times and stiffness of the material makes it serviceable at best.
Blu-ray technology has come a long way since October of 2006. Then, it was a cinch to jump at recommending the PS3 as a Blu-ray player, both for its quality and its price. That’s a little more difficult now with fully-functional players in the sub $200 department, along with high-end players like the Oppo BDP-83 sprinting ahead of its quality. Plus, it wouldn’t be a discussion about the PS3 without even a mention of the Xbox360 – a unit that’s maintained ground in the gaming department, along with slashing its price. Naturally, to keep speed with the market, it’s about time for Sony to release their newer model of the PS3 at a more affordable level.
At the current price point of $300, Sony’s Slim Playstation really delivers a remarkable punch for the price. With the capacity to bitstream advanced audio functions, communicate wirelessly over the internet for BD-Live and firmware updates, and put up an impressive 1080p image, it’s a highly capable Blu-ray player. That’s not even considering the fact that it can work as well as both wireless media hub and a decent CD/SACD/MP3 player. Through many months of refinement through firmware updates to the unit’s XMB interface, it’s nailed down fluidity with most of the tech underneath the hood – a few minor, lingering exceptions excluded. On top of all that, it also opens the gates up to a decent library of video games since, well, it’s a Playstation 3. Over HDMI, which handshakes just fine with an Onkyo SR605, everything runs extremely smooth.
The question of the hour: is the jump from a thick to a slim PS3 worth the investment for early (earlier) adopters? It’ll all depend on what model of Playstation you already own. Upgrading from system to system brings a few variables into the equation – cost of upgrading a hard drive, whether the PS2 backwards compatibility is worth holding onto an older unit, how much upgrading the audio capabilities is worth – which will ultimately hinge on personal preference. For home theater enthusiasts, it’s certainly worth the boost from simple internal decoding to a bitstreaming piece of equipment. For $300 and a likely return investment from selling a previous unit, it’s whole-heartedly worth it – even if you’re pretty much buying the same unit with a few earmarks.
Sony’s new Slim Playstation 3 still offers one of the best complete values in the home media spectrum, if all of the functions are utilized. As a Blu-ray player, it’s both completely functional as a 1080p, audio bitstreaming unit over HDMI and up-and-running with all the supplemental features that make the new technology a cutting edge medium. It plays DVD to a moderate degree, bridges to external media hubs for file access, and offers a growing library of high-definition games playable both offline and online. The Slim Playstation 3 unit comes with a 120 GB hard drive and an internal wireless adapter, both of which almost make up for the fact that the unit isn’t backwards compatible with Playstation 2 games. Also keep in mind that it had a few times where it ran a bit hot on this end.
Value for the money makes this a no-brainer for those in need of a Blu-ray player, while the sleekness of design and additions to the system make this a justifiable upgrade. Really, you can’t go wrong for $300, if less; just keep all the factors in mind while considering whether to take the plunge.